Tadhg back on the bag

Tadhg HarringtonBy Brian Keogh

Tadhg Harrington is all set for more Q-School torture this week - 12 years after helping brother Padraig through the toughest test in golf.

The Dubliner, 45, caddied for his little brother at San Roque in 1995 and never caddied for him again after a "surreal" experience.

Tadhg said: "People ask me why I don't caddie any more but I couldn't do it.

"If Padraig hadn't won the Open, Ronan Flood would still be working the next week but I would be in the mental asylum because of the headlines they were going to write about him."

Now a successful businessman, Tadhg is back at the Q-School today with another promising talent from Stackstown.

But while Michael McDermott must come through four rounds at Arcos Gardens in Jerez to make next week's finals at San Roque, Harrington has seen it all before.

Recalling brother Padraig's first steps towards professional greatness, he said: "We went through pre-qualifying in St Cyprien in France and one in 10 got through.

"It was very hot. He shot four under to get through by a shot. Then down to San Roque for the usual six rounds, four and then a cut.

"I found it surreal to be honest with you. I’ve actually written about it in a foreword for Padraig's new book.

"I said I’d never come back to Tour School again but I feel that Michael definitely has a chance of getting through and I felt that if I came down, it might help him."

While Harrington's pitch to the 72nd hole in the Open might go down as the greatest of his career, Tadgh remembers an even more vital stroke.

He said: "In pre-qualiyfing at St Cyprien he’d played three holes, had hit it very close on all three of them and was one over par.

"Then on the fourth he hit a very good tee shot. It was a par five across a dog-leg and he was between clubs.

"He could just about get home with a 3-wood and he hit the most magnificent shot across the corner, all the way down across the out of bounds to the front of the green and two-putted it for a birdie and after that it was plain sailing.

"It’s amazing, a little known shot that nobody knows about I remember vividly as the shot that got him through pre-qualifying and at final Tour School he never even looked as if he wouldn’t qualify.

"Being here this week brought it all back. You see so many guys standing on the practice ground and they all hit it like Tiger Woods, every one of them hits it so good that you walk away saying to yourself ‘how did these guys not do it’.

"Looking at them hitting on the range, there’s not one guy there that doesn’t hit the ball fantastic. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between one of them and a guy on the European Tour.

"It’s just down to a matter how they mentally handle having four birdies in a row starting off or having four double-bogeys in a row starting off. How do they handle that.

"It’s a really intimidating atmosphere and you have to be very single-minded. It’s a once a year thing. You don’t get a second chance. You have a bad week or you weren’t just swinging it well and you have to wait for a year."

Harrington helped raise €20,000 to finance McDermott's golfing career this season through the Paddy Harrington Memorial Day at Stackstown.

But he admits that he won't feel quite the same pressure this week that he felt caddying for his brother Padraig in amateur championships and Walker Cups.

He said: "I find it easier with Mick this week. I've be doing all the things I used to do with Padraig and you can be more objective.

"With Padraig, my first time around, I was kind of living the shots. I couldn’t hit them for him. I was just on edge for him to make it through.

"With Mick I can be much more objective. I can be much more clinical much more assertive in your advice in that you can make a cold, calculated decision.

"Whereas with Padraig because he was my brother I was kind of emotionally involved."

Harrington is convinced that McDermott, who finished 10th on the Europro Tour money list this year, can cruise through this week.

He said: "I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think he could get through. I think he’s an exceptionally good player and has all the qualities that Padraig had.

"In other words, he’s not the greatest golfer in the world, but he’s a good golfer and a very hard worker. He’s got a very good head. He knows how to get it around a golf course even when he’s not hitting it the best."

McDermott used the cash raised by Stackstown to practice on Gateway Tour in Arizona earlier this year before going on to win the SBN PGA Europro Tour Championship in June.

Tadhg added: "It was the first chance he got and he took it, which is a fantastic achievement."

Brother Padraig will start his 2008 campaign in tomorrow HSBC Champions Tournament in China and will have dozens more chances to shine after that.

But McDermott must perform this week to have any chance of showing what he can do on the main tour.

Tadhg said: "That’s what golf is all about. That’s the crucial difference between golf on the European Tour and where we are today with Michael McDermott.

"This week Michael has one chance, while they get a hundred chances. In saying that, Padraig earned the right to have 100 chances."